Leonardo BOFF. Christianity in a Nutshell. Translated from the Portuguese by Phillip Berryman. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013. pp 122. $18.00. ISBN: 9781626980303. Reviewed by Eric W HENDRY, Plano, TX 75026
In 2011, Boff released Cristianismo: O mínimo do mínimo, which he described as his swan song, following a fifty year career of theological reflection that produced sixty texts. Looking back on his life’s project, he rhetorically asked if what Christianity seeks could be stated in few words. This brief volume succeeds in its ability to coherently establish – in a surprisingly compact set of reflections – just what Boff sees as the central items of faith within the enormously complicated hierarchy of truths.
In his final chapter, Boff illustrates the relationship between Christianity and the history that followed the crucifixion and resurrection. By distinguishing significant differences between the reign of God as preached by Jesus and the ecclesial structures as they materialized over the centuries, Boff is then able to address the deep, inner dimensions of both the spirituality and movement of Christianity. Churches can and should incarnate a message of a divine love that engages and transforms entire cultures – but only when it is lived out ecumenically between all the ecclesial traditions. This allows Christianity to express the mercy of God as a sacred and political power for transformation. For Boff, Christianity must live out its full, transforming reality – or it will gradually diminish into ecclesial pathologies and reductionisms that impede its own growth. The key, then, is to remind Christians of their own potential to be a positive force and civilizing leaven within the various Christian communities.
Whether you intend to use this book for personal meditation and reflection – or as a primer that introduces contemporary students to the field of theology, I foresee that many will find it a welcome and versatile addition to their course syllabi. I highly recommend it.